Editorial – As we begin the new year, the St. Paul City Council has an opportunity to enter into a new agreement with the St. Paul Rodeo Association to manage the St. Paul Rodeo Complex and potentially acquire a badly needed new water source for the City’s aging municipal water system. The proposed agreement reflects a new level of cooperation between the City and the Association and benefit both parties, their constituents, members and community stakeholders.
Over the last 20 months, the City and the St. Paul Rodeo Association have been re-negotiating the twenty year old Use Agreement between the City and the Association for use of the Complex (which expires in 2035), and replacing it with a management agreement. It’s not a new or untested concept; management agreements are common in larger communities with professional sports teams who use publicly owned stadiums or sports facilities, and Oregon law permits such agreements. The City will not relinquish ownership of the publicly owned portion of the Complex, but simply contract with the Association to manage the facility on behalf of the City, something the Association has already been doing for many years.
The proposed agreement was thoroughly reviewed by former and current City Attorneys, City-County Insurance (the City’s insurer), and the Association’s legal counsel. The Oregon Health Authority, Marion County Health Department, State of Oregon Water Resources Division, the City Engineer, Marion County Public Works, the Sheriff’s Office, St. Paul Fire District, the Parish, and the St. Paul School District were consulted at various times during the drafting of the agreement.
In crafting the agreement, the City and the Association carefully considered local needs, financial impacts to both sides and community stakeholders, and historical and future uses of the Complex. An important part of that discussion focused on ensuring that local schools and community organizations benefit from use of the Complex and fundraising opportunities from events. The St. Paul Jaycees, the Parish, and the St. Paul Boosters Club will continue to operate and manage the Bull Pen, Parish BBQ Booth, and Booster Club concessions; School District football games will still be held in the arena.
Under the present Use Agreement, the City receives an annual payment slightly over $13,000 a year, increasing each year by a percentage based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The new management agreement starts with the base $13,000 amount, retains the annual CPI increase, and adds new shared revenues to the City for non-rodeo related events should those occur in the form of a percentage of any paid admissions and 25% of any rental fee(s) collected from third parties. Audit provisions in the agreement ensure that financial operations related to the Complex operation comply with accepted accounting standards and municipal budget law.
What’s NOT in the proposed agreement is a bill to City residents for operation, maintenance and repair, or capital improvements. The Association, at its own expense, has maintained and improved the Complex for many years. In the last two years alone, the Association spent over $123,000 and countless volunteer hours on repairs and maintenance for the Complex. Under the agreement, the Association will continue to bear that burden, something the City is wholly ill suited for with its limited staffing and budget. Absent efforts of Association volunteers and its funding, City taxpayers would be footing the bill.
The City hasn’t the expertise to organize and manage events like the annual St. Paul Rodeo which brings 60,000 plus visitors to town. That expertise, dating back many years, is provided by the 400 plus members of the St. Paul Rodeo Association. No one knows the facility or its management better than they do. Their work has earned the event a place as one of the top 10 rodeos in the United States. Beyond the inestimable value of the hundreds of volunteer hours by Association members, the new agreement contains cost savings to the City as the Association will pay for law enforcement, security, and parking/traffic control at events. Every year, City staff spend significant time processing vendor applications for the Rodeo under the City’s Sales and Solicitations Ordinance. Under the agreement, the Association will administer the City vendor licensing program at its own expense, collect the City license fees from vendors at the Complex, and pass them on to the City.
When the City and the Association work together, it shows. Anyone who attended the 2019 Rodeo or Fall football games saw the results firsthand. In the last year, the dilapidated old and unsafe skybox and chutes in the arena have been replaced, and the potholed gravel walkway and part of the City street at the west end of the arena is freshly paved – all performed and funded by the Association. Bright new arena lighting is planned for 2020. Things are looking up for the City Park, as well, since the Association would manage the City Park under the agreement, and the community will have a well maintained park to enjoy and be proud of.
An important component of the agreement involves the Rodeo well located on Association property. If feasibility studies demonstrate that the well can safely be used as a municipal well, the Association will allow the City to connect the well to the City’s drinking water system, adding a critically needed new source of drinking water and fireflow for the City. There would be NO charge to the City for use of the well.
Since members of the City Council and the Rodeo Board do change over time, the agreement provides a framework to ensure stability where each side knows its rights and responsibilities, together with a clear and streamlined process to resolve complaints, issues, or differences without resorting to the courts. Requests for amendments to the agreement can be made by either side at any time.
The draft agreement is available in its entirety on this website and the City’s website: stpauloregon.org. It’s clearly written, understandable, and good for the City of St. Paul, the St. Paul Rodeo Association, and the St. Paul community. We urge residents, community organizations, and other stakeholders to contact the City Council promptly and ask them to ratify the agreement without delay. The Council is accepting public comment until January 1,2020. Please take the time to drop a simple note of support at the City Office, mail it to PO Box 7, St. Paul, OR 97137 or e-mail one in care of the City Recorder at firstname.lastname@example.org.